I rode down the Chattooga River yesterday in a whitewater raft.

They call it whitewater because there are points on the rafting trip that get bumpy and steep because of the water rippling over rocks.

I’m not a whitewater expert.  In fact, it’s not something I would ever attempt without expert coaching and leadership.

Our coach Paula has been leading rafting trips for 12 years, and she exhibited effective leadership in so many ways.

She made sure we understood the risks.  We wore helmets and flotation equipment in case we ended up in the water.  She taught us the techniques for surviving a fall.  She pointed out risks that a rookie like me wouldn’t naturally see to keep us from learning about them the hard way.

She described well how the four of us in the raft would work together to get down river.  She made sure each of us knew our roles, described the ways we could coordinate best, and had us practice before the action got “hot.”  Her intensity to teach made us all aware of the importance of our roles.

From time to time, we came to tougher spots on the river.  We would pull over to the side and she would describe what was going to happen.  She made sure that we knew what “extra” would be required of us.  We went into the difficult times prepared to overcome.

Her communication style was great.  Clear, direct, understandable directions.  She used an encouraging voice.  She frequently told us when we performed well.

While I identify as a leader, I was happy to follow Paula’s lead.  She was the expert, she was up front about giving direction, and she quickly earned my trust.  Leaders recognize capable leaders.  My respect for leaders has taught me the importance of being a good follower.

We made the trip.  Safe, thrilled with the journey, satisfied with our accomplishments.